That Voodoo that I do

July 26th, 2006

I was at DemoCamp 8 last night and as usual stayed later for the social networking. I got into a discussion with Pete Forde and others about who does what.

I have real trouble explaining to people what it is that I do. I often try to explain the nuance between being a scripter (which I am in spades) and a programmer (which I am not exactly) and the distinction falls short of conveying the gestalt that is the technical side of me.

I spend a lot of my time making a whole mess of things work together that were never meant to be integrated. It often takes a wide and deep range of knowledge to figure out the bits. I have variously called myself a technical spot-welder, a duct-taper, a spelunker, and a special-ops data diver, trained to get in under the wire and get out with the data.

Here’s an example – at one of my clients, something we do is give realtime tests against devices in the field. A diagnostic page could tell you, for instance, the contents of the ARP resolution table on a remote router. There is a bunch of magic that goes on behind the scenes to do this (simplified here):

  • the user presses the “get ARP table” button

    • the external portal web server (ASP.NET/Win2k3/MSSQL) makes a SOAP call to get the information
      • the soap call is received at an internal webservices server (Apache/PHP/BSD)
      • connection information is resolved against a PostgreSQL database
      • a shell script is invoked on the webservices server
        • the shell script uses ssh to connect over a secure tunnel to an API server at the customer premises that can route to the destination
        • a script is run on the API server (bourne shell, perl, telnet, curl, grep, sed, awk, lynx etc)
          • the script connects to the router, logs in, displays and parses information, logs out
      • info gets routed back to webservices server via the ssh connection
      • php assembles SOAP response
    • ASP.NET receves SOAP, builds result page
  • Result received by user

I make all that stuff happen.

Now how do I distill that into an elevator pitch?

2 comments to “That Voodoo that I do”

  1. Funny, all this time I thought you were a fluffer…

  2. For me to suggest that I was a junior (whatever the blazes you are) would give myself too much credit, yet I find myself in the same position. Lost for a definable box, or reasonable sized collection of boxes, I can place my talents within.

    I find that the proverbial PowerPoint on me is to long and drawn out or simply leaves the audience with this glazed over look that suggests they were lost at, “Hi, My name is Cameron.”

    I feel you pain, though I can only aspire to walk in your shadow (for now).